Willing to Wait for Sex, Prestigious Jobs, Etc.

The notion that teenagers might value their virginity seems implausibly Victorian to many adults. The teenagers themselves think otherwise, though, as we learn from a poll of 15- to 17-year-olds by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Seventeen. Among those who haven’t had sex, 94 percent agreed that “being a virgin in high school is a good thing”—an opinion also endorsed by 88 percent of those who have had sex. While we think of teens being rushed into sex by peer-group pressure, that factor actually cuts both ways. Asked to list the reasons guiding their decision to have sex, 62 percent of those who’ve done it said many of their friends had already done so; of those who haven’t had sex, 54 percent said none of their friends are doing it. While there is little indication of regret from those who haven’t yet had sex, the same isn’t true of the sexually initiated. “Among those who have already had sexual intercourse, almost half believe it is best to wait—until 18 or older (29 percent), or for marriage (17 percent)—in spite of their own decision.” When asked to list “the benefits of waiting to have sex,” large majorities of the virgins cited “respect for yourself” (93 percent), “respect from parents” (91 percent) and “respect from friends”(84 percent). Against all odds, then, virginity may have better word of mouth among teens than sex does. By the way, when teens have sex for the first time, it’s not necessarily because they’re overwhelmed by passion. When respondents who are sexually active were asked to list the factors that led them to have sex, “curiosity” garnered the most mentions (85 percent).

A pop quiz on Americans’ environmental attitudes: In which age group are people more likely to say they’ll pay a premium for “environmentally safe” products—18-24 or 55-plus? A survey by Mediamark Research Inc. has the answer. Though the 18-24s are the ones who’ve had the environmentalist creed drummed into their skulls all their lives, they are less likely than their elders to say they’d pay more for earth-friendly goods (52 percent vs. 66 percent). The same poll asked people whether buying American-made products is important to them. While 76 percent said it is, that’s down from 81 percent in a 1998 poll.

Evidently people don’t worship money after all. In a Harris Poll that asked adults to rate the prestige of various professions, there was little correlation between prestige and income. For instance, just 8 percent said the job of stockbroker has “very great prestige,” vs. 25 percent saying it has “hardly any prestige at all.” (The rest of the vote was split between “considerable prestige” and “some prestige.”) Also faring poorly were real estate broker/agent (6 percent very great prestige vs. 31 percent hardly any), entertainer (17 percent vs. 25 percent), lawyer (17 percent vs. 20 percent), athlete (17 percent vs. 20 percent) and banker (14 percent vs. 10 percent). Three of the five jobs rated most prestigious aren’t very lucrative: fireman (55 percent very great prestige vs. 2 percent hardly any), teacher (49 percent vs. 6 percent) and nurse (47 percent vs. 4 percent). A lab coat never hurts: The best score went to scientist (57 percent vs. 1 percent), with doctor not far behind (52 percent vs. 3 percent). Americans don’t dole out prestige as freely as they once did. Of the 10 professions covered in the new poll and in a 1977 survey, the “very great prestige” tally has fallen for nine of them. The sole exception is teacher, up 20 percentage points since the earlier poll. Lawyer lost the most ground over that period (19 percentage points).

Here’s more evidence, were any needed, that young adults are masters of prolonged adolescence. In a poll fielded by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation, 57 percent of respondents age 18-24 said they plan to celebrate Halloween by dressing in costume. As usual, the trick will be to tell which ones are in costume and which ones are not.

Forget the cliché of the shopaholic woman brandishing multiple credit cards. According to polling by Vertis, men are more likely to fit that bill. Thirty percent of women and 36 percent of men said they use two or more credit cards in a typical month. The gender gap was wider among Gen Xers, with 27 percent of the women and 37 percent of the men using at least two cards in a typical month.

For class warriors whose motto is “Eat the rich,” a study by NFO Financial Services will bring on some indigestion. The research firm reports that the number of millionaires in the U.S. has rebounded in the past year and now exceeds the pre-9/11 level. As of mid-year 2003, the number of Americans with investable assets of $1 million or more was 3.8 million, up from 3.3 million in 2002 and 3.7 million in 2001. This year’s gains in the equity markets have helped, of course, but so has the continuing strength in real estate. “In fact, the proportion of personal assets invested in real estate other than the individual’s primary residence has doubled in the last year among wealth-market households, from 10 percent in 2002 to nearly 20 percent in 2003.” Don’t imagine your worries would be over if you had a million to invest. A non-landslide 35 percent of the millionaires expect their household’s finances to improve in the next year, vs. 55 percent in last year’s study.

Everyone knows American consumers have lost faith in American cars—everyone, that is, except the consumers themselves. The chart here excerpts the results of an Ipsos World Monitor survey. While the numbers don’t amount to an overwhelming endorsement of U.S.-made cars, they’re better than one would expect in light of countless media stories about the domestic auto industry’s decline. The more negative news for Detroit comes in a breakdown of the data by income. Among households making $75,000 or more per year, just 37 percent of respondents said American cars are best, vs. 36 percent citing Japanese cars and 23 percent picking German cars. Along the same lines, consumers in the 18-34 age bracket had a below-average propensity to say American-made cars are best (43 percent) and an above-average tendency to say this of German cars (14 percent).